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CC I want to be friends with you, now more than ever !

This is very helpful and I’ve bookmarked it on my browser.  Which light would you say has been the most valuable and most used in your collection?

Sure, we can be friends.

Which light is the most valuable and most used?  The sun.

I’m sure that’s not the answer to the question I suspect you are trying to ask.  Let me try to put it in perspective.  There are something like 3,000 photos on my personal page.  There are a couple of thousand on one of my Flickr accounts, and a hundred thousand on my computer’s drives.  The vast majority were done with ambient light.  When traveling, I carry a 430 EX II flash, but I seldom use it.  Shooting a stage show, I rely on the stage lighting and don’t use a flash.  Outdoors, the exception to not using a flash is weddings, then I use a flash in the hot shoe for fill.  Indoors, I frequently shoot without a flash, even when I should use one.

So, I have a bunch of lights.  What do I do with them?  Well, when in the studio, I like the big studio strobes because they have lots of power and they don’t need batteries.  They have big, bold light which is great for portraits.   But, sometimes I need less power and a narrower burst of light.  The big strobes are not very good at stopping water drops for instance because the flash duration is too long and the water blurs.  So for stopping motion, Speedlites are better.  Sometimes I use older lights with Pocketwizards and sometimes I use the newer 600 EX RT lights because they have built in radios, it depends on which body I am using.  If I am going to be on site, and think I will need lights, I take Speedlites and spare batteries.  Sometimes I use the little feet that come with them and sometimes I take light stands and umbrellas.  It depends on how much I think I will be moving around and what I am shooting.

It is easiest to say what lights are my least favourite.  Those would be continuous lights, which I only use for macro and product photos because they are not bright enough to get really good low ISO, high shutter speed shots, and they are too bright for me to look at for any length of time.

If I were starting with nothing and could only have one set of lights, I would choose the 600 EX RT lights, and a bunch of rechargeable batteries, then add some softboxes or umbrellas made for Speedlites, and other modifiers like grids, gels and bounce cards.  My reasoning is that they provide the most flexibility and are easiest to carry.